Online Islamophobia: YouTube Still Aiding the Targeting of Muslims
Mike Stuchbery speaks to Parveen Ali who has experienced harassment and abuse since appearing in a YouTube video by a well-known Far Right figure.
While the focus on the Far Right of late has involved their targeting of so-called ‘establishment’ figures, ordinary British Muslims continue to be subjected to a campaign of intimidation and harassment, prompted by the videos made by Far Right figures.
One such case in point is Parveen Ali. The 37-year-old mature student based in west London, claims that she has been subjected to a steady stream of intimidation and harassment since 2017, when she appeared in a video made by a far right figure who was then making videos for right-wing Canadian news site, The Rebel.
Ali, a photographer whose work has been displayed at the Houses of Parliament, was confronted by the figure at a Britain First rally in London on 1st April 2017, where he asked her whether she believed in Sharia law. Ali replied that she simply wants to “live in peace”. A video of their exchange uploaded to YouTube shows how him angrily repeating the question before moving on.
Ali says that harassment began soon after she arrived at her new flat the following year.
“I noticed when I was leaving my flat neighbours would make comments under their breath,” she told me. “I would often think ‘what’s going on, what’s all this about?’ I would get people spitting on the ground whilst I was walking past. Laughing in my face for no apparent reason.
When I walk past them, they try to scare me by staring at me really hard to frighten me. Since the New Zealand attack they have been shouting ‘New Zealand!’Parveen Ali
“One day I was in the communal garden and they tried to set their staff dog [Staffordshire bulldog terrier] on me and found it funny.”
Still, Ali says that she didn’t explicitly link the abuse she was receiving to her appearance in the video until October 2018, when she was at a Hallowe’en party in her neighbourhood. There, she says, a whisper campaign began that led to more explicit, directed harassment.
“I have experienced different neighbours at different times shout [the far right figure’s name] when I walk past.
“They walk pass my window several times and often just stand there in a small group pointing at my window shouting ‘Britain is ours’.
“They smoke outside my bedroom window which is on the ground floor. They talk loudly at 1am trying to intimidate me saying ‘get out of our country! You’re not welcome here!’ and start laughing. This has happened several times.
“They have thrown cigarettes at my bedroom window. When I walk past them, they try to scare me by staring at me really hard to frighten me. Since the New Zealand attack they have been shouting ‘New Zealand!’.
“Online, some have threatened to kill my cat by sticking fireworks on her. They are circulating the video of me and even showed my next-door neighbour who said ‘please be careful, they showed me a video of you’.”
Ali says that she has repeatedly reported her harassment to both her housing association, Southern Housing Group, and YouTube, with a request to remove the video. Neither have responded. Byline Times have also approached them for comment.
They often just stand there in a small group pointing at my window shouting ‘Britain is ours’.Parveen Ali
The sustained abuse inspired by the video, Ali says, has had serious effects on her health.
“As someone who suffers from depression, this has had a huge impact on my mental health,” she told Byline Times.
“I felt so low and down that I haven’t been to university for many weeks and now gotten behind with my coursework.
“My self-esteem is low so is my confidence. I have started to close my blinds and not open them due to seeing my neighbours. I do not feel like leaving my flat most days.
“I’ve been phoning the Samaritans a lot. I am struggling to sleep at night with the fear they may throw something at my window.”
While Ali continues to struggle with the harassment that she has received as a consequence of the video, YouTube is still hesitant to remove the far right figure from its platform, although it has placed several restrictions on his account, such as comments and view counts being removed.
Byline Times will continue to follow Ali’s story.